Colostrum management in lambs

Colostrum contains a complex mixture of proteins that actively participate in the protection of the neonate, through passive immune transfer, against pathogens and other postpartum environmental challenges.

Animals growing under an artificial rearing system need to be fed, by bottle, an adequate amount of colostrum during their first days of life, to obtain adequate passive immune transfer and increase future productivity. It has been reported that lambs not fed colostrum in the first hours of life are more susceptible to diseases and mortality. Therefore, it is crucial to provide an optimal colostrum source.

Lambs need to be fed an amount of colostrum (pasteurized at 63 degrees Celcius for 30 minutes) equivalent to 8 g of IgG/ Kg body weight, divided into three equal meals in the first 24 h after birth, given 2, 14 and 24 hours after birth. This corresponds, on average, to about 150-200 ml colostrum per feeding. The amount of colostrum produced by the mother and its composition can be affected by several factors such as nutrition and/or litter size. Lambs fed with cow colostrum run the risk of developing anaemia. In addition to the amount of colostrum fed, management during the milk feeding and weaning period, such as stress produced by dam separation, milk quality and suckling frequency, can affect the final immune status of lambs.

Thus, feeding the newborn ruminants with adequate quantity of colostrum, as early as possible after birth, is an effective good practice to obtain good passive immune transfer for optimal protection of lambs, so their health is improved and less likely to need antibiotic treatments for the infections.